Dancing is so much more than just a competitive sport, each dance is a storytelling masterpiece.
While lost in the moment of a tear-jerking contemporary or a fiercely fluid rumba, viewers are blind to the work that goes on behind the scenes to produce such effortless displays.
Particularly for women, it’s easy to be ignorant of how hard they train their bodies to glide effortlessly across the stage, especially when dressed in elegant gowns or decorated two-pieces.
The wardrobe process is one of the most important parts of putting together a dance routine. But over the years, the norm has suggested women must wear stereotypically feminine garments in order to make the performance work.
Strictly Come Dancing, the UK’s biggest television dance contest, continues to challenge these stereotypes.
Strictly dancer Karen Hauer has spoken out on how she attempts to break this mould in her performances and has stated women do not need to be dressed in “skimpy outfits” in order to appear feminine.
Speaking to The Telegraph, the Latin dance specialist admitted she has in fact “always been body conscious” when it comes to her work.
“I’ve been dancing for over 31 years, but I don’t actually like showing my legs or my body on the dancefloor,” Hauer said. “When I train, I wear leggings and a top. I like to be comfortable and not be seen like a piece of meat. If I could wear pants or trousers to dance in, then I would!
“It’s not that I don’t like my legs, for me it’s a question of feeling comfortable. If I feel a bit bloated, for example, I won’t want to wear a two-piece outfit. Sometimes skimpy outfits are seen as more feminine — some girls might feel more comfortable with a bit less on — but I don’t.”
I don’t need to expose certain parts of my body to show how confident I am.
Like any other sport, professional dance requires optimum fitness and strict training regimes to stay at the top level. The discipline and hard work of the athletes is what really makes dance such a spectacle to behold.
Hauer stressed she wants her craft to be acknowledged for her work on the floor and not for her choice of outfit.
“I’ve always liked wearing long skirts and clothing that accentuates movement and elegance. I don’t need to expose certain parts of my body to show how confident I am.
“I’ve often thought, ‘why do I always have to wear a skirt to show that I’m feminine?’ I can be extremely feminine with a suit on, whether I’m dancing a quick step or a cha-cha-cha.”
The Venezuelan-American praised the Strictly costume team and said they “love putting me out in a jacket and trousers because they know I’m comfortable in them.”
Encouraging the narrative that femininity does not belong in one specific box is not the only stereotype Strictly has been chipping away at.
The 2020 season made waves by introducing the show’s first ever same-sex dance couple — two-time Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams and professional Katya Jones.
This year, viewers have been treated to the beautiful pairing of John Whaite and professional dancer Johannes Radebe as the show’s first male duo.
Whaite and Johannes have received an abundance of praise for their breathtaking performances and have booked their place in the Strictly final. Their on-screen partnership has sparked increased interest in same-sex dancing and a number of same-sex dance evenings across the UK have seen attendances rise.
“Strictly is something that everyone should experience in their lifetime and the final on Saturday is going to be fantastic, but I can’t call it,” Hauer said ahead of the grand finale this weekend. “Everyone on the series has been brilliant and it’s always so refreshing to meet new celebrities and see them fall in love with dancing.
“I love just watching them progress and seeing how their bodies and mentality change. I’ve fangirled all of this year’s celebrities.
“They’re all legends for putting their bodies through what us dancers do on a daily basis.”